Monday, March 5, 2012

Episode Talk: S2E19, Putting Your Hoof Down

It's been a while since I've done one of these, but I felt the need to stick my foot in my mouth.

More so than usual, that is.

Anyway, some two-days-after reaction to the latest episode, after the break.

-This right here is why I find Fluttershy to be the least interesting of the main six.  Because one of her defining characteristics is her soft-spoken-ness, the show's writers have to take her completely out of character when they want to make her a focal figure.  Offhand, the only episodes I can remember where Fluttershy plays a major role and isn't forced to act completely against type at some point are the pilot and May the Best Pet Win--and even those both mined some humor out of Fluttershy having an unexpectedly dramatic reaction to this or that.

Reaction to this episode on the forums I checked seems to be pretty positive.  I suppose that shouldn't come as a surprise, since Fluttershy's probably the most popular character in the fan community.  But personally, this was one of my least favorite episodes to date.  Definitely in my bottom five, at any rate.

-On the other hand, the wide variety of shoutouts in this episode were excellent.  Winks to the fandom included Lyra and Bon-bon sitting together in the background, Bon-bon with a lyre clasp on her saddlebags, and Derpy in the background (complete with derped eyes in one scene--apparently they haven't changed her permanently) with a muffin clasp.  These are exactly the level of fandom reference I'm comfortable with; something the fans can pick out and enjoy, but which doesn't distract from the episode itself.

In other reference news, there was some stuff I didn't care about (and probably a lot more I didn't pick up on.  The Hulk?  Meh), but two things stood out: Iron Will's Mr. T impersonation, and the ersatz version of Eye of the Tiger that played when he made his first appearance.  As a fanatical fan of the Rocky movies (it's just a shame they never made any more after Rocky IV... and anyone who says they did is lying), both of those made me extremely happy.

-Speaking of Iron Will: what is a minotaur, anyway?  A creature with the head and lower body of a bull, and the torso and arms of a... of an ape?  In a world without humans, what's he supposed to be a cross of?

-Between the fireworks, the third-person speech patterns, and the audience participation element, it seems to me that Iron Will and Trixie must have gone to the same school of showcreaturesship.

-Okay, one last thing about the monster minotaur: at the risk of turning this into Trixie Wars part two, it seems to me like Pinkie and Rarity's treatment of him was completely unjustified.  He runs an assertiveness training seminar, and by cracky Fluttershy got more assertive after attending!  It's not his fault if she went overboard.

Then, he dropped by her house to collect his bill after she failed to pay up in a timely manner.  He wasn't particularly rude, and his request certainly wasn't unreasonable.  He just showed up and demanded his money.  And when Fluttershy told him she wasn't satisfied with the course, he left!  He didn't argue about it, didn't try to browbeat her, nothing!  He just asked if she was sure, and when she said she was, he acknowledged her dissatisfaction and departed!

Frankly, Iron Will seems like a pretty decent guy, and the way he got treated like some brutish villain annoyed me.

-After seeing what we have of cows, donkeys, mules, and sheep, I was assuming that all ungulates in Equestria were at or near pony-level intelligence.  But the goats... I'm not so sure about the goats.  Maybe they just can't speak English because their vocal chords can't mimic pony speech?  They can't be too stupid, or Iron wouldn't trust them to run his electronics (side note: are the microphones and spotlights magic-powered?  Can goats and/or minotaurs use magic, or do they have to buy their stuff from friendly unicorns?  I have so many questions!).

-The way Fluttershy treats Angel Bunny prior to the end of the episode would have been hilarious if I didn't know so many children who get away with as much or more with their parents.  Instead, it just made me sad.

-This episode had some terrible voices for the background/one-shot ponies.  My previously-stated theory that Ponyville is in the midst of a tuberculosis epidemic is gaining steam--it's only a matter of time before mass graves and citywide quarantine are canon.  Just you wait.

23 comments:

  1. A minotaur's supposed to be half bull and half man, which in context of Equestria is really bizarre. You'd think more ponies would wonder why someone's walking around on their hind legs like that. Aside from Spike, I don't think there's been anyone that primarily walked on two legs. So... I guess humans are...extinct? Mythological? Ape headed minotaurs?

    Also, I'm always slightly relieved to see that I'm not the only one that thinks Fluttershy can be pretty uninteresting. There's nothing wrong with her, she's a lovely pony, but just not very... interesting. Especially since I'm pretty shy myself, so aside occasional moments of "oh look it's things I also do" there's nothing there to hold much interest, since it's old hat for me anyway. I think besides "Dragonshy" this is the only Fluttershy-centric episode I really enjoyed, though I'm not really sure why.

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    1. That's actually not so strange. There are plenty of mythical creatures that are combinations of other mythical creatures. Then again, the original mythical creatures are generally combinations of two ordinary animals. (Griffons being half lion and half eagle, and then hippogriffs being half griffon and half horse, for instance.) Or there are others that just modify completely mythical creatures (like how wyverns are basically two-legged dragons). I think the biggest issue must be what a human must be! Maybe the unholy offspring between a chimpanzee and a naked mole rat? A mutated chinese crested dog?

      There are also tons of bipedal animals other than humans. It's not like there aren't any birds or wallaroos in Equestria. That shouldn't be too weird for any pony to see.

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  2. On one hand, I'm a little upset that I have to wait longer for that "Simply, Rarity" Review (events in my own life over the last few days haven't helped either).

    On the the other hand, I agree with you on this episode Chris but I'll add some of my own original thoughts (shrunk down from a larger piece).

    1). Rarity and Pinkie were setting really bad examples at the market scene, which annoyed me. It's one thing to stand up for yourself, it's another to use trickery to get celery off a poor nerd (I hated that design) or "steal" tomatoes from an honest seller (and once again the staff takes gags from the Loony Tunes without understanding the gags, first). Speaking of the marketplace, when did Ponyville get infected with Jerk-itis.

    2) The fact that neither Rarity or Pinkie flinched that when all the other the customers backed behind Fluttershy but instead praised her, was cringeworthy. Honestly, I felt the two were out of character even.

    3) It dragged, seriously when it got to Fluttershy's realization that she was a "monster" (which I felt as a 'cheap-out' (there's a better word but I can't think of it right now) ), I flat out ask myself "did anything actually in happen in this episode."

    4) Fluttershy went off the deep-end way too easily. It would have been better to have a build-up towards the extreme, rather than start extreme, as more events began to tick her off.

    5) Iron Will's only two positive traits were that he has a force of personality and that he's not a terrible person (or bull or monster) but quite frankly he's about as memorable for me as the "three stupid dogs" when it comes to antagonist (most of whom I dislike anyway, as characters). By the way, am I they only who thought the staff was going for a "bullheaded" joke by making him a minotaur?

    That's basically it. For me, this will rank as one the worse episode's of the series and its disappointing because I really wanted to like this because it was Fluttershy's first focal episode of the season. But after this, it's like I'm knocking Fluttershy down on my character rankings to fourth of the main six.

    1.5 stars/ 5 stars

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    1. I think you're spot-on with your observations, though clearly Rocky goes a lot farther towards justifying Iron Will for me than it does for you. Eh, fair enough.

      On a more general note, I went ahead and looked up what episodes Merriwether Williams wrote, since several commenters seem to be less than enamored with her. Of the three so episodes she's written so far, two (this one and Mare-Do-Well) have been pretty abysmal by the show's standards, IMO. Hopefully she either manages to pick up a few hints from the other writers, or doesn't get brought back for season three.

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    2. While its true Rocky does nothing for me (I know the theme but I have never seen the movie), in retrospect, I actually might have been too hasty (and sour) in calling Iron Will unmemorable. He's a rather, if you pardon the pun, bullheaded fellow and I do think some bits with him were somewhat funny (when he tears off the boards, he then politely knocks on Fluttershy's door) but he'll never be a favorite character of mine.

      I don't remember where I read this, but I think someone suggested that the opening sequence and the market sequence should have been replaced with Fluttershy's usual interactions with the gardener and the mail-pony. I think that would actually work better. Show that and one more interaction, maybe then Pinkie and Rarity or one of her other friends could have told her that she needs to stick up for herself more (no examples though). Then Fluttershy could see the seminar flier (or heck have Rainbow give her the flier because I truthfully felt Rainbow could have fit in this episode rather easily), go to the seminar, start off fine but then go too far and her friends could call her out on it because that's not what they meant.

      I also admit that the little fan-shouts did nothing for me, but the reason for that is because I try to think as a non-brony. To state the most obvious example, when Derpy was called "Derpy" in the show, the fan reaction was huge and mostly positive because it showed that the staff acknowledged the fandom's mascot. But from the perspective of a kid or an adult who is not part of a fandom, it's just a name. Twenty years from now, the most common reaction would be (if the name wasn't edited out) "it's just a name", because they didn't watch show as it came out and the fandom has since dispersed. So such shout outs become, for lack of a better term, dated. But story never dates

      At the end of the day, I still dislike this episode. Honestly, when Rarity and Pinkie were sent crying, part of me wanted to join them but everything that happened before told me that such tears were not earned, so I didn't. And when that happens, well, I can't help but be irritated.

      *My apologizes on the rant but I felt like responding. I'm also still cringing at the technical errors in my earlier post.*

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  3. I personally adore Fluttershy; she's tied with Rainbow Dash for my favorite pony, and I have to disagree that she's taken out of character so much. In fact, the way you put it, it sounds like you're overlooking a facet of her character, but I digress.

    I would agree that she is OOC in this episode though. I find this episode's quality only middling at best, and I think I can identify the reason: Merriwhether Williams tends to write the characters by taking one of their traits to the absolute extreme, and trying to play humor off of that. However, it just falls flat. I'm saddened by this because I was hoping for a great Fluttershy episode. It's painfully obvious that this writer wrote for Spongebob, and I do not mean that in a good way.

    This episode does have its saving grace in Iron Will however. I really enjoyed his character, and I totally agree with you that he was given poor treatment. He actually came off as the nicest guy in the episode, and I can't think he was actually the antagonist. He was simply a supporting character to help drive the plot; it was Fluttershy herself who was the antagonist as well as the protagonist.

    All of that said, I enjoyed all of the references, and I especially enjoyed all of the shout-outs the animators gave us.

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  4. Rocky! Woo!

    ...Ahem.

    I have to agree - I was not at all a fan of what they did to Fluttershy's character in this episode. Having characters make mistakes is fine, but to maintain a moral characters have to suffer some kind of punishment (or at least the impression must be given that they are/will be suffering one). In this, she was terrible one moment, then poof! In a moment that was handled far too quickly, she realised the error of her ways and then she was completely back to normal (well, almost).

    I love Fluttershy, but this episode sent out all kinds of wrong messages and not all of them came from just her either (the way Rarity flirted with that stallion for, example). Not to mention the entire thing felt kind of flat.

    In saying all of that, though, this episode still contained plenty of laughs, so it wasn't completely irredeemable. That and the shout-outs were fantastic.

    Not to mention that we are probably looking waaayyyy too deeply into this! Haha

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    1. We're the fans. Looking too deeply into this is pretty much our job. XD

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  5. I liked Iron Will, but only as the comedy villain of the piece. Having done some very good self-help stuff over the last few years, and it's taught me enough to appreciate that his kind of self help is bull-shit (sorry).

    Yes, I completely agree that Fluttershy being able to put those techniques into practice at all a massive stretch that made little canon sense. However, what she did wasn't beyond the mentality of that kind of (so-called) positive reinforcement. So I liked the episode because to me it had the right conclusion: If you listen to OTT cretins who think self-help is a bunch of slogans and acting like an ass, you get what you richly deserve.

    All of you (where you have mentioned it) are right though, this is the very reason why Fluttershy will never quite by my favourite pony, just the cutest. She's not really suited to 'owning' an episode (although I did like Stare-Master), but much like Applejack she's a superb supporting character.

    Also, I'd like to commend the writers again on actually adding some worthwhile flavour to Pinkie Pie. In season 1 I found her quite annoying and bland. Now I feel like that have thrown away the original draft for her and given her a real make-over. I approve.

    I admit I completely missed all the references when watching the episode, but now I've seen them I absolutely love them, ESPECIALLY the Hulk-sulk (Chris: You're clearly a soul-less automaton!).

    I give it a 3.5, because as much as I want it to be a 4, it was too rushed to have any feeling of consequence, and I'm clearly biased towards Fluttershy!

    Scott.

    P.S. I have no issue with Rarity's flirting. Imperfections and dark personal drives side by side with smiles and friendship are what we LIKE about out cartoon ponies, remember?

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  6. Wow. o.O I thought this episode was great, though it suffers the same lack of conflict in the third-act resolution as Hearts and Hooves Day.

    Iron Will is hardly a 'villain', just a protagonist. He was, in fact, completely reasonable, though his personality is pretty strong, so he works as a foil to Fluttershy. Also, I'd say he's no more a cross of two creatures than Gilda. Minotaurs is minotaurs, griffins is griffins.

    As for Fluttershy being OOC, I think it's pretty easy to accept that her severe introversion comes from anger repression, no doubt due to her upbringing. We got a little bit of that in Dragonshy (Fluttershy standing up for her friends), but it didn't really come to a head until Best Night Ever, at which point it was amazing and really branched her out as a character.

    But I suppose it can't be helped. I mean, you think best pony is worst pony. We all make mistakes, Chris. <:V We all make mistakes.

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  7. At heart, I watch the cartoon because it's just a cartoon that can be enjoyed by anyone, so my first instinct is not usually to pay attention to plotting and characterization over whether a scene is immediately funny. That's not to say I can really disagree with anything you said, just stating why I liked the episode anyway.

    I will say, though, that with all those things considered, I feel more confident about my initial assessment of Merriweather Williams being the weakest overall writer on the MLP team. Granted, he's still lightyears (c'mon, you know what I mean) ahead of any writer from the previous gens, but while he has a great sense of comedy and comedic timing, it's always clear that he came in after Season 1 and doesn't quite know the characters very well yet, which means he tends to jerk-ify the ones he's tasked with focusing on. It's funny and entertaining to watch in the moment, but unlike some other episodes in the series, it doesn't stand up to any sort of consistent character analysis.

    Oh God, we think way too much about this.

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  8. You know, I really should stop reading the episode reviews on this blog.

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    1. ...because they piss me off.

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    2. (Fuck your 1.5 star rating. It was a 3 star rating AL LEAST.)

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  9. Fluttershy works best as a leading character when she is shown with another character(s), such as 'Green Isn't Your Color' and 'The Stare Master'. With her weak personality, she just isn't suited to holding a solo lead role; there just isn't much else that can worked with. You can only show how shy she is so many times before it becomes monotonous. The only other defining trait of hers that comes to mind that hasn't been given an entire episode would be her affinity with animals, but we've seen that show up so often in other episodes that I don't feel it would be that good of an episode (or at least as good as it could have been if they had done it back in season one).

    It's why I'm actually looking forward to 'Hurricane Fluttershy'; hopefully it will showcase how she and Rainbow Dash interact more in depth.

    Also, regarding Iron Will: I think everything about him can be summed up in just one brief scene. When he realizes that Fluttershy is in fact home, and has been hiding from him, he charges up to the door, rips off all of the boards that had been put up to seal it shut in one easy move and then... politely knocks. Really, the only beef I had with any of his advice was the one where he says you should criticize and not apologize. Other than that, his catch phrases all had some kernel of truth to them. The main problem is that he, and Fluttershy, were a bit too enthusiastic about putting them in to practice.

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  10. You haven't been at the right forums. Where I hang out, people HATED this episode, at least 50/50. I personally hated it, and I agree... the writers don't get how to do Fluttershy. This episode knocked her down to my least favorite in the main 6 power ranking.

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    1. I'd argue that it was just Merriwhether Williams.

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    2. It was one of those bad episodes that undermines your impression of the good episodes. It was that bad and painful, to me.

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    3. To specify: with all the character breaks that Fluttershy has gone through, I've stopped seeing her as a nice pony who occasionally gets pushed too far. I now see her as a mean, spiteful thing who's normally just too afraid to speak her mind.

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  11. What has always:

    Appealed to me most about these cartoons is the way the writers often take standard children's TV plots, set their six lovely, odd, eccentric characters into them, and send them spinning off in the most interesting and peculiar directions. It's why my least favorite episodes--"Applebuck Season," for instance, or "Dog and Pony Show"--are the ones that follow the standard plot almost to the letter.

    That's been my problem with several 2nd season episodes, and I can only attribute it to the lack of Lauren Faust's gently twisted sensibilities in the final stages of script preparation--especially since, to my eye, some of these less-than-shining episodes just needed a couple lines of dialogue added to make them work.

    "Mare-Do-Well," for instance, would've been vastly improved if, at the end, Dash had looked down at the others before taking the quill in her teeth, given them one of her big grins, and said, "Yeah, but it still took all five of you to beat me." To which Twilight would've replied, "Which is why the six of us together are unbeatable." The cider episode needed Applejack to turn to the mayor after she's announced that the brothers had won the contest and say, "That's fair--if what's in all them barrels is bona fide cider."

    This last one, though, yeah, it needed a bit more than one or two lines. I wanted to see that the reason everypony was acting like such jerks in the marketplace was that they'd all been to one of Iron Will's earlier seminars--maybe Fluttershy first hears about Iron Will from an advertising flier she picks up at the cherry seller's booth. Then when Fluttershy shows the townsfolk the eventual outcome of following Will's platitudes, they realize what's going on, turn on him the way they turned on Flim and Flam, and all demand their money back.

    Still, I consider the half hour I invest in each episode each week to be time well spent. It's still the only TV I watch other than John Stewart's "Daily Show"... :)

    Mike

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    1. This episode killed Fluttershy. I'd watch Jersey Shore before I watched this again.

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